elPeriódico: José Rubén Zamora: “This is a persecution of Giammattei, it is a political trial” | International

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The journalist and president of ‘elPeriódico’, José Rubén Zamora, speaks to the media after the first hearing against him, this Wednesday in Guatemala City.Esteban Biba (EFE)

The journalist José Rubén Zamora, founder of the newspaper of Guatemala, has been presented this Wednesday afternoon before the judge for the accusation of money laundering that the Prosecutor’s Office of the Central American country has made against him. Calm, with his hands handcuffed and escorted by his lawyers and human rights defenders, Zamora has affirmed that the entire process is a “montage” created from the presidency led by Alejandro Giammattei, whom he has indicated in statements to this newspaper of launching a political persecution due to the publications made by his newspaper, which document abuses of power by the president and close officials. The journalist has classified the entire procedure as a “political trial” and has defended his innocence. “I am a free man who decides to say no categorically to the excesses and abuses of power. This is an assembly designed, manufactured and efficiently executed by the president [Giammattei]the attorney general [Consuelo Porras] and other people”, said Zamora.

The first hearing was held in the Seventh Criminal Court of Guatemala City before Judge Fredy Orellana, who surprisingly admitted the Prosecutor’s request that the meeting, which was scheduled to take place behind closed doors, be attended by the press Dressed in faded jeans, a blue jacket and a white shirt, Zamora has carefully followed the allegations of the prosecutor Cyntia Monterroso, denying her claims from time to time with his head. The journalist was arrested last Friday at his house in the Guatemalan capital for the crimes of blackmail, influence peddling and money laundering. The first hearing was suspended last Monday because the judge did not receive the file and the car in which the accused was taken to the Court Tower “broke down.”

The Prosecutor’s Office has presented in today’s session accusations against two of Zamora’s lawyers, Mario Castañeda and Romeo Montoya, whom they point out as also being involved in the case against the journalist, for which Judge Orellana recommended changing his defense. Now Zamora has until next Monday to present new lawyers and continue with a process that has outraged Guatemalan journalism, which sees a hunt unleashed from the Government with one of the most critical voices against the Giammattei Executive.

Zamora has harshly criticized the entire procedure in brief statements given to journalists gathered in the suffocating courtroom of the capital, an ancient and labyrinthine building full of tired-eyed lawyers running through the corridors and young men handcuffed and escorted by obese officers. The journalist has unambiguously stated to this newspaper that “without a doubt” it is a political persecution of President Giammattei against him and that “he is sure” that the process is a “political trial”. Opinions shared by his colleagues such as Gonzalo Marroquín, director of the magazine Chronicle and former president of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), who affirms that the trial against Zamora is a “plot” that hides “the government’s desire to kill the newspaper” and silence its founder. “The attack is fierce,” said Marroquín. “The alliance that is governing Guatemala, which includes the military, mafias, businessmen, political parties, controls the three powers of the State, so what we have in Guatemala is everything, except a democracy,” he said.

Marroquín has been able to see Zamora in prison and affirms that he is in “very precarious conditions”, although “in the safest place”, and has expressed his concern that the justice system decides to send him to prisons “where he is surrounded by the people who they have been denounced in its pages for drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption. His life may be in danger”, he stated. According to this journalist, Zamora is “in incredibly good spirits despite the conditions he is in.”

Zamora’s arrest, the raid on the editorial office of the newspaper and the freezing of their accounts has raised a wave of indignation in large sectors of Guatemala, a country that wakes up every day with new excesses by its president and justice that, according to sources consulted, is controlled by the Executive. Several journalists and activists have organized protests in front of the headquarters of the courts of justice demanding an end to what they consider a hunt against those who criticize or denounce cases of corruption, as has happened with a dozen judges and prosecutors who have had to go into exile due to the harassment against your job. These justice operators have directly pointed out to the Attorney General, Consuelo Porras, to unleash a persecution against her, protected by the Giammattei Government. In fact, the president decided to renew Porras’ mandate, despite the accusations that he is holding back anti-corruption investigations.

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“We view with concern and condemn this fact, it is a revenge by the Government, which has instrumentalized the attorney general to criminalize critics of his administration,” explains Hector Coloj, of the Association of Journalists of Guatemala. “This is a repression for the different investigations that have been published on acts of corruption in this Government and is part of a campaign of harassment, to promote a general environment of self-censorship by the State,” says Coloj at the headquarters of Association, a large mansion located in the old center of the Guatemalan capital and where they pose, as a reminder of infamy, portraits of journalists killed in times of the military dictatorships that bled this Central American country.

The eyes of Coloj and his colleagues interviewed in this capital are on Nicaragua, where the press is persecuted by the Daniel Ortega regime. “Guatemala is an authoritarian state, but there is the fear that sooner rather than later we will be a new Nicaragua and that the persecution of the press will be general,” he says. The scenario that this communicator imagines is discouraging: “We fear that there will be raids, attacks, murders of journalists, media intervention, media confiscation. Let exile or forced displacement return, as happened in the military dictatorships.”

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